An Internship on Capitol Hill

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with American history. From the Revolutionary War to the present day, America has a rich history. So much of that history is determined by what happens in the United States Capitol. From moments of division, such as when Senator Sumner was viciously beaten with a cane by a congressman during the Civil War, to moments of great unity, like when the Senate unanimously voted to bring our nation’s enemies to justice after 9/11, our Capitol is a place of reverence. 

Despite being a place of political division, Capitol Hill can be a place for Christians to reflect Christ within the realm of their civic duty. I knew I would want to experience that up close, and an internship on the Hill would give me that chance. When I was accepted as a summer intern in the office of Senator Thom Tillis, I kept all of this in mind. I will describe what that experience was like and key takeaways from it.

For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility…for through him we both have access in one spirit to the Father. – Ephesians 2:14,18

Understand Your Civic Responsibilities

Generally speaking, an internship on the Hill entails being a helping hand in the office of the elected official you are working for. This is not limited to answering thousands of phone calls from constituents, attending meetings, giving capitol tours, conducting legislative research, and writing memos or constituent correspondences for the representative and their staff. Because you are granted a staff ID, minus a few exceptions, you are allowed access anywhere in the Capitol building. Because there are hundreds of lawmakers, each office’s internship program is different. Some offices keep their interns in the office, while others allow their interns to explore the Capitol, and, more or less, make the internship what they want. Thankfully, my office was the latter.

Answering phones from constituents is a staple of interning on the Hill. For me, this entailed listening to concerns or suggestions and writing those concerns down to be viewed by Senator Tillis. Sometimes, people would call about serious policy proposals. Other times, people would call angry about a policy stance that the senator had taken, or people called just to have someone to talk to. I never minded answering the phones, and because we had five interns and a relatively low call volume, I only had a few hours of scheduled phone time per week. I also wrote memos for the staff on anything from policy issues to recent news. An amusing moment for me was knowing that I wrote a memo on Mt. Olives Pickle company that was used to brief Senator Tills before his visit. 

One great thing was my office was lenient with where I was, so I was able to go almost wherever I wanted if I was accounted for and finished my work. I used this time to attend as many committee meetings as possible. These meetings are small gatherings between senators that oversee specific issue areas. I discovered if I walked into those meetings, not looking like the stereotypical, lost, intern, people would not question my attendance, and I could finagle my way in. I attended meetings on issues such as DACA and immigration to issues in the Supreme Court. I was able to see senators such as Ben Sasse, Amy Klobuchar, Ted Cruz, and Jon Ossoff. 

My relationship with Senator Tillis was great. Senator Tillis had seen dozens of intern classes come through his office, but nevertheless, he was extremely personable and took time to talk to us interns whenever he was around. Senator Tillis knew our names and facts about us, which was admirable for a person as busy as he is. A highlight of my time on the Hill is when the Senator came into our intern room and decided just to sit down and talk. For a good forty minutes, the Senator chatted and answered questions from the interns, like he was talking to friends.

My favorite moment of the internship was when I had the opportunity to go on the Senate floor and watch the senators vote. Generally, the floor is restricted to the senators, a select number of staff, and Capitol Police. For traditional office staff to be allowed on the floor, a senator would have to request those privileges from the presiding officer from the floor. With our internship winding down, Senator Tillis asked the interns if we would like to be on the floor while the senators voted. I could not have said yes fast enough. An hour later, we watched Senator Tillis request our floor privileges by name from the Senate floor on C-SPAN. It was an amazing moment, and our Press Secretary found the clip and sent it to us, which I was able to share with my parents. Being on the floor was incredible. We witnessed an argument between the senators on an amendment that seemed straight out of the movies. One by one, we saw the senators come into the chamber and vote on the bill. It was an unforgettable experience and one I will cherish.

Realize Your Influence

As exciting as things were when the Senate was in session, out of session (when the senators went back to their States) things slowed down. I did more office work during this time, such as adding contacts to our database, answering phones, sorting mail, and helping the staff out where they needed it. Gone were the suit and tie, and in came business casual clothing. It was strange to be around senators flocked by the press corps one week to not seeing any lawmakers the next. Nonetheless, I am appreciative of where I was and the privilege I had working at the Capitol. Even during the times when the task I was working on did not seem all that important, I was motivated by one of my favorite Bible verses, Luke 16:10.

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much. – Luke 16:1

Interning with Senator Tillis was a fantastic experience that created lifelong memories. It was awesome to see the government in action, learn more about how it functions, and meet so many wonderful people. I would highly recommend interning on the Hill for anyone interested in politics and government, and it can be a unique experience to intertwine your faith with politics.

Beyond the Bubble

My freshman year of college at the University of Georgia brought a world unlike any other. I was living on my own for the first time in a high-rise dorm with 1,000 other UGA students and I came in wide-eyed and excited. My freshman year was spent like typical college freshmen: long hours in the dining halls, Cookout trips at 2 a.m. with my best friends, and ministry nights several times a week. My friends loved going to church gatherings; in fact, by the time the second semester rolled around, we were going to three or four different events Monday through Thursday. It was different from what I had experienced back home. Not better or worse; just unique. Each week normally involved a freshmen service on Monday, a worship night on Tuesday, another service on Wednesday night, and a house church led by two seniors on Thursday night. By the end of each night, we were exhausted and possibly a little burned out, but still curious for what more our university had to offer us. 

It sounds overwhelming, and it was, but we soaked it up like sponges. I do not think it would have been sustainable in the long run; but, for that second semester, it was right where we needed to be. Looking back on it all, it is obvious the Lord used freshman year for me to get to know Him and fall in love with Him. I did not know it at the time, but I was investing in something greater than any stock or bond; I was investing in my relationship with the Lord.  

In my eyes, the term “college” took on a whole new meaning. It was full of hope and determination, a place where the Lord was really moving and working in all our lives. After freshman year, I continued to stay involved in Wesley and became a freshman small group leader my sophomore and junior years of college. Most of my friends were those I had met my freshman year through the various Christian activities we attended. While it was fantastic to be surrounded by a community and close friends to build me up, encourage me in the Word, and hold me accountable, I could not help but feel that I was going to a very different UGA than most students.

Inside the Bubble

It felt as if there were two universities: one full of those seeking the Lord and one full of those there to have a good time. They are so separated that one does not even know the other exists. While the Christian community built each other up and created a community full of love, encouragement, and accountability, it was closed off to the rest of UGA. Regarding the term “closed off,” all the ministry events and small groups are open to everyone; it just ends up being the same groups of people that go to most of the events. I have seen how most (myself included) have sat with the same group of friends every Wednesday night since freshman year. We found our solid Christian friends in the first year of school and check! We can cross that to-do item off of the list!

While it is important to be grounded in strong Christian friendships and community, we were never meant to stay in the “bubble.” The community is an essential part of being a Christian and it encourages us in a way that could not be reached on our own, but believers can not stay in our comfort zones. We are called to leave the bubble every once in a while and serve those who do not know the Lord as we do. While this specific example only discussed one university, this aspect can be applied to almost every part of life. 

Beyond the Bubble

In Luke 10, Jesus sends out seventy-two of his followers and He gives them instructions. It reads:

After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or scandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.” – Luke 10:1-4

Jesus is urging us to get out of our comfort zone and serve those who are different from us. How is this done practically? 

1. We can not go alone. In Luke 10, Jesus sends his disciples out two by two. Our community is built for a reason and it is biblical that we have each other to encourage and uplift us. 

2. James 3:18 says:

Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. – James 3:18

We should not force anything onto anyone; but instead, we should come from a heart of peace, patience, and kindness for others.

3. People should not become our projects. We were never called to analyze the “progress” of someone’s faith journey, but we are called to show up, serve, and know that the Lord is the real one behind the scenes working in their hearts. John 15:5 reminds us this when the Lord says:

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

We do not need to carry the burden of people’s salvation on our shoulders because it is not ours to bear. It is the Lord’s work that is doing the real change in people’s hearts. 

4. When our hearts are aligned with God’s purpose, the details will happen naturally. I used to get so nervous about bringing up what the pastor discussed in church that Sunday to my friends who didn’t attend church. I noticed that when I tried to force a point of the sermon into the conversation, it felt unnatural and awkward. But, when I asked for the Holy Spirit to guide me and entered every conversation with a desire for God’s will, conversations that discussed faith became more natural. 

Above all, one of the most important points to remember is that the Lord is the one behind all good things. No matter how hard we are praying for someone, the Lord is fighting for them so much more than we can imagine. It will become a joy and an honor to work alongside Him all for His glory. 

Race, Reminders, and Identity

When stories about Asian hate run on the news or are posted all over social media, I feel irritated, frustrated, confused, and also, heartbroken. Sometimes, I feel a strong sense of urgency to “do something,” but mostly I am just at a loss. I don’t know the right actions to take or feelings to feel, but I know that I want to be a part of the solution because many Asians in America are hurting. There are many answers that I’m still figuring out, but I think that God is truly growing my faith in this season of life.

To give a little bit of context, I was adopted from China when I was young and have lived in the United States ever since. Obviously, I am Asian and I have in fact experienced some racism throughout my life. My parents are white and have not had the same cultural experience that I have had just due to the nature of my ethnicity. I have grown up in predominantly white circles, around people who know me and understand my background. Coming to college, interacting with new people, and experiencing life has shown me how to extend grace better, to seek more understanding, and to educate myself on the needs of the world.

Growing up as an Asian in America, people would always ask me about Chinese culture and my experience as a minority. I always felt as though I spoke from observation rather than personal experience. Especially when I was younger, none of my peers thought too deeply about the social implications of race or differences in skin color. As I have matured, I am starting to realize how to think deeper in these areas.

About a year ago, when COVID-19 was just beginning to cancel plans and shut down the world, something happened that I will never forget. It occurred when masks were more of a suggestion. I was in the grocery store picking up a few things for my family without a mask since it wasn’t required. A lady came up to me and said in a rather rough tone, “Your mouth is open and you are breathing on all the food. That is gross and I am going to need you to stop.” I was taken aback because I was not expecting her to say that. I said, “yes ma’am”, and then walked away. I saw her a bit later in the cereal aisle and she decided to holler down the aisle, “You said you were going to close your mouth, but you ain’t doing that. You are nasty.”

At that moment, I was stunned and embarrassed. I was also fully aware that she was saying these things to me because I was Asian and we were in a pandemic caused by a virus from China.

Anchored in Christ

Although this is a minor incident compared to other Asian people’s experiences, it does stick out to me because it is directly related to the pandemic that we are currently facing. This made me stop and consider many things. This incident started to break down the securities that I once held onto, causing me to re-evaluate where I placed my identity, and challenged me to live more confidently. God is continuing to teach me how to fully embrace the way He created me, trust His plan for my life (which is 100x better than my own), and share the freedom that I have found in Him.

The world is most definitely watching the way in which Christians respond to racism. The world is listening to what Christians say and taking note of what they do not say. Though I want people to feel heard and respected and to know that their feelings are valid, sometimes I feel neither willing nor equipped to respond. I think that is okay; we don’t have to know everything. But, we should set an example for others, love others well, and stand firm in what we believe.

The promises of politicians to protect Asian Americans, the persistent social media campaigns, and the chants from activists do not bring me long-term comfort. Rather than compose a list of do’s and don’t for addressing racism in America, I want to share some truths that I find most comforting. These things hold true no matter the state of the country, president in office, or opinions of the media.

Identity in Christ

We are all children of God, created in his image, and loved by him. Jesus died for everyone and offers the gift of salvation to all that believe in him.

And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised. – 2 Corinthians 5:15

Live like Christ

I once heard a pastor say, “We should be practicing on earth what will be a reality in heaven: In heaven, race, as we know it, won’t exist.” I want to always remember this quote because it is the perfect reminder of several aspects of the Christian faith. Christ-followers are citizens of heaven and earth. Due to sin, there are trials that we will have to endure, social institutions that are not biblically based, and physical/mental afflictions. While we wait for Jesus to return, we should prepare our hearts, keep our eyes set on things of God, and strive with our best efforts to love others the way Jesus modeled.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. – Colossians 3:2

Regardless of our life experiences, the color of our skins, or the stages of life that we are in, as believers we are called to carry one another’s burdens in order to fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). This holds true for practically all situations. If you know that a brother or sister is hurting, then reach out to them and try to meet his/her needs. In the context of addressing racism, I implore you to listen to the Holy Spirit because God will never lead you astray.

There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1

Episode 14// Why does the Equality Act matter?

Currently, the Equality Act is a hot topic as the chambers of Congress are reviewing and voting on whether to pass the bill. In this Q&A session, Anna Claire and Renee discuss why this Act is vital to Republicans and Democrats, and hope that through this, listeners can decide which parts of the bill they support, as well as finding a balance between acceptance and freedom to disagree. Although the Equality Act is being widely discussed now, different versions of the bill have been introduced several times in Congress and were even passed in the House of Representatives in 2019. However, the ruling of Bostock v. Clayton County in June of 2020, has changed many people’s perspectives on the Equality Act. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that the protections guaranteed by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, also extended to discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. In February of 2021, the Equality Act was passed through the House of Representatives and is currently waiting to be voted on in the Senate, where the chance of a filibuster is highly likely. 

 

The Equality Act is founded on the 1964 Civil Rights Act which stipulates all people shall not face discrimination or segregation on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The Equality Act would include adding the phrase, “sexual orinetation or gender identity” after the word “sex”. Democrats argue that anyone in the LGBTQ+ community should have equal rights as heterosexual and cisgender people. By passing the Equality Act, discrimination in places such as resturaunts, senior centers, stores, health care facilities, and government office would be ilegal. Forms of discrimination include denial of entry, unequal or unfair treatment, harassment, and violence.

 

On the other side, the Republican party disagrees with legally making preferred sexual orientation the same as biological sex. Republicans argue sexual orientation should not be protected by the law, because it conflicts the right to freedom of religion. If the Equality Act is passed, doctors will be forced to perform gender transformation surgeries, even if it is against their religion. It would also require public and private schools to teach students about the LGBTQ+ community. This has led to concerns about citizens being held to a law that requires them to go against their religion. 

 

Though the Equality Act can appear daunting and complex, it is important to let listeners decide which aspects of the Act they agree and disagree with. Tune into Episode 14 on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts to hear the whole conversation. If you’re a fan, please rate the podcast, and leave a review!

 

More resources to further understand the Equality Act:

 

“The Equality Act: How Could Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Laws Affect You?” by Heritage Foundation (Conservative)

https://www.heritage.org/gender/heritage-explains/the-equality-act 

 

“Commentary: The Equality Act and how it could affect churches, religious organizations” by John Litzler (Conservative) 

https://www.baptiststandard.com/opinion/other-opinions/commentary-the-equality-act-and-how-it-could-affect-churches-religious-organizations/

 

“The Equality Act” by Human Rights Campaign (Progressive)

https://www.hrc.org/resources/the-equality-act 

 

Video: “The Federal Fairness for All Act” by AND Campaign

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zW0rPHHoZLM 

 

“The End of Women’s Sports” by Selina Soule

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BuV-s1SYLk 

 

The Great Commission: Our Greatest Mission

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. –
Matthew 28: 19-20

The Lord answers prayers in the most curious ways as was recently shown me as I found myself having a philosophical debate with a stranger at two in the morning.

After making a small comment about God, this stranger told me that he was agnostic, if not atheist, and I could imagine the Lord laughing at me up in heaven. This was what I had been praying for, so I took full advantage of my new friend’s openness and asked as many questions as I could think.

My intentions with my research and this conversation as a whole were to grasp a deeper understanding of agnostic and atheist beliefs, so that I could be prepared to minister to a non-believer in the future or help somebody else do the same.

As Christians, we are called to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt.28:19-20). It is the epitome of the instructions the Lord gave to us and our primary duty while on earth. However, too often we confine ourselves to make disciples of our own nation, limiting ourselves to the small circle of Christianity with which we are familiar. While this is certainly not the case for all believers, it has become a consistent issue among far too many, including myself.

Growing up in the Bible Belt of the south, attending a Christian school, and visiting church biweekly, I have always been surrounded by like-minded believers. My exposure to those who openly refuse the Gospel, or who are unaware of Christ, has been limited at best and is practically non-existent. While I have always seen this as a blessing, a fortress sheltering me from the corruption of a godless world, the Lord has recently opened my eyes and shown me that my shelter is less of a shade tree and more of a storm cellar, keeping me ignorant of the world around me and leaving me with a heavy question. How can I introduce people to God if I only discuss Him with those who are already familiar with the gospel?

The honest answer to this question is that there is no answer. I cannot speak Truth to non-believers by speaking truth to my small circle of believers because my circle will only continue to dwindle. However, I have recently learned that the more willing to listen, I become the more willing I am to speak about God becomes. He has recently presented me with countless opportunities to examine the philosophies of non-believers to prepare myself to minister in the future.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. – 1 Peter 3:15

It is for this reason that I jumped head first into research about atheism, looking to understand all outlets of unbelief.

The most consistent issue with Christian faith that I have come across in my readings is the idea of a Christian superiority complex that is rooted in pride. I discovered several reddit threads saying that Christianity was selfish and looked down on non-believers. There were comments such as the issue with Christianity is “claiming humility while bragging that you’re in telepathic communication with the creator of the universe” or saying that Christians thank God when tragedy strikes someone else because, as a result, they escape it themselves (Reddit).

Being raised in the Christian mindset, I am unable to respond objectively to these comments, so I asked this agnostic stranger for his opinion on my findings. This friend told me that the pride issue goes both ways, and is not necessarily tied to Christianity itself, but rather religion as a whole. He said that Christian pride is less of an “I am better than you” mindset and more along the lines of “I feel bad for you because you do not share my faith”.

This approach not only emphasizes the separation of religious and non-religious individuals, but actually encourages the segregation by belittling the non-believer into a place where they are even less willing to explore faith. On the other end of the spectrum, the non-believers are suffering from a pride issue as well. My agnostic friend presented it to me in this way: when you do not believe in a higher power, you are the highest power in your own life. Therefore, when it is illuminated that there is a greater being, it is like saying that you, the non-believer, are lesser. Since no one enjoys being demoted, this is a hard pill to swallow. Furthermore, the entirety of their belief system would be changed, and the foundation they had paved for themselves would crumble under the weight of faith. This is enough to make a person want to reject the Gospel, especially partnered with the idea that their actions may be in direct opposition to what is right according to the Word.

Due to these factors, effectively communicating among mixed beliefs becomes even more difficult. To confess an unwanted opinion to any individual of any belief, the ideas must be introduced delicately, with gentleness and respect, as 1 Peter says, especially when the belief carries as heavy a significance as eternal salvation. From my research, I have deduced three fatal flaws in the process of sharing our faith.

Pride Corrupts Perception

The first is the idea of pride: being prideful and believing in self-righteousness directly translates to looking down on someone in disagreement. Going into any conversation with preconceived ideas of another person’s character based on their beliefs is a sure-fire way to deteriorate the discussion before it even begins. Instead, what we must do is pray and ask God that we are gentle and considerate in our words, and we must also establish a level of respect as the base layer of the relationship.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. – Colossians 4:6

For example, if you were to meet an agnostic believer and wanted to commit to a conversation about the Lord, it would be appropriate to first acknowledge to yourself that you are not God and cannot change the hearts of men. What you can do, however, is be His voice for a moment and speak His unbiased truth, evading incorporating your own. After all, Christ died for all people, not just those who believe; God loves His children even if they do not love Him in return. Furthermore, it is easy for pride to cloud our judgment and make us question why an individual would be hesitant to accept faith at all. We often assume they are either ignorant of the Truth and will convert by purely hearing the good news, or that they have evil in their hearts and therefore refuse the Gospel. Having these initial thoughts of ignorance or corruption further fuel religious pride and make it that much more difficult to effectively communicate God’s word.

Forced Faith is not True Belief

The second flaw is that of forcing one’s spirituality onto someone else. Real, unfiltered faith is a personal and intimate concept. It cannot be transferred by force, but rather accepted by diligence and thorough teachings. I do confess that sometimes repetition can be effective in bringing an individual into a church, but when presenting the idea of faith to someone who is unfamiliar, hounding only turns them off more. Rather, we ought to lay out the facts and theology of Christ and pray that the individual comes to accept faith in their own time. The key to this process is to find common ground with the non-believer to ignite a spark that can lead to a flame of faith. This is easier said than done and may seem virtually impossible because as Christians we are taught that our identity is in Christ as we die to Him.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

Since we find our identity in God, how are we supposed to find commonalities with the godless? This is where personal preference comes in: yes, we are part of the body of Christ, but God did make us all unique from each other with different gifts and tastes. Despite the fundamental differences in spirit, there are surface level agreements that can be shared. Plus, going a step further, there may be a common agreement in believing in good and evil, even if the non-believer does not state it to be of, or not of, God. Once we find common ground, we can convey our opposing views in a manner that communicates safety and comfort.

There is No Cookie-Cutter Christian

The third issue with miscommunicated disciple-making is the divide between religion and spirituality because they are often confined into a single thought despite being radically different. Speaking to my agnostic friend about church, I discovered that he has learned by example. So what happens when the portrayed examples show the worst part of the church? The idea that you have to verbally confess your sins to a priest or the thought of a checklist of Christian values to mark off, cannot embody the grandiosity to faith itself. This idea of tasks to gain glory is not limited to Christianity, and in fact, is actually excluded by Christianity alone. Christianity is the only religion in which you are born into grace, and do not have to earn your position, as Philippians 3:20 quotes, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ”. However, the Word is often taken out of context, and creates the illusion of moral high ground. Since the Church is made up of people and people are sinners, it is easy for corruption to enter into a place of sanctity and discourage true peace among opposition. Therefore, it would be easy for someone who is unfamiliar with the Bible to view salvation as something that is granted to the “most holy” or most godlike people.

Christian faith is believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died on a cross to save us from paying the price of our sins. Religion is a way to categorize that faith and to make it fit certain preferences. For example, I grew up in the Church of Christ and there was never an instrument played in the church; however, I am now Baptist and love to worship with a guitar. This does not mean that I changed my core beliefs or that one of these denominations is wrong. Religion is important and church is vital, but real belief must be at the center of it all. We must truly commit to God Himself rather than how we think we ought to praise to Him. The idea of religion can be overwhelming and exclusive to non-believers, which is the opposite of how God calls us to be.

While the barriers between faith and disbelief cast a daunting shadow on disciple making, we are not left hopeless and we can still press on to share the good news among all nations. The Great Commission is our greatest mission. We must take action, bearing in mind that true faith takes practice and patience because our relationship with the Lord is a real relationship and will suffer if it is not tended to. Atheists are not in communication with the Lord, so they neglect their relationship and it consequently suffers. As said in James 2:3, “You do not have because you do not ask God”, we must keep this verse on our hearts as we attempt to do the work of God and bring others to Him. Using prayer and Scripture, fervently working on our own faith, we will be successful in our missions to go and make disciples of all nations.

Works cited
“r/Atheism.” Reddit, www.reddit.com/r/atheism/.
Holy Bible: New International Version. Zondervan, 2005.

Whole-Life Pro-Life

Herbie Newell is a graduate of Samford University and has served for eleven years as the Director of Lifeline Children’s Services, which is a global and domestic adoption agency.  In January of 2020, he released Image Bearers: Shifting from Pro-Birth to Pro-Life, which presents a challenge to the Church and a call-to-care for people of all ages, races, and circumstances.  

Most of the time we hear the terms pro-life and pro-choice associated with political candidates and parties.  It is something that determines how a lot of evangelicals vote, but this is a much more vast and deep and urgent issue than I personally, and we as a culture treat it. As a Christian, I believe life begins in the womb and is indescribably valuable. When I hear many pro-choice speakers arguing that because of the broken adoption and foster care centers, disaster would strike if abortion was outlawed, I can’t help but see where the church has failed. These are valid thoughts, and I can see where the Church has been very outspoken about being pro-birth but has failed to care for the parents in these very difficult situations.

To prove the babies for whom we are fighting will be loved if the mom chooses life, we need to care for orphans well, care for people with special needs, and care for foster children and families. This is where Lifeline steps in. Lifeline sets an example of holistic support for life through shepherding families through adoption, while also providing resources for those in the foster care system and support for parents who would like to regain custody of their children.  

James 1:27 says, 

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

As Christians, we have a clear responsibility to care for those in distress, and in this episode, we walk through what whole-life advocacy looks like for the Church as well as how to get involved as college students.  In Image Bearers, Herbie leaves us with several questions, “Am I willing to be inconvenienced in order to defend life?” and, “Is my apathy towards the voiceless contributing to injustice?”  These are challenging questions, but wrestling with them will lead to finding out how we may use our prayers, unique positions, and gifts to fight for the voiceless and care holistically for distressed families.

Biblical Justice

After diving into Scripture and seeking out God’s instruction for life to the fullest on this earth, we should be naturally driven to engage in the world around us while we wait for Jesus’s second coming.  In his book Generous Justice, Tim Keller writes, “A true experience of the grace of Jesus Christ inevitably motivates a man or woman to seek justice in the world.”  

Our salvation motivates us to bring others into the family of God, just as we were once aliens. I believe learning and listening lead to a new understanding of how to love our neighbors well.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
-Ephesians 2:19-22

Dr. Brent Strawn is an author of scholastic works such as The Old Testament: A Concise Introduction and The Old Testament Is Dying (Theological Explorations for the Church Catholic): A Diagnosis and Recommended Treatment.  He is currently a professor at Duke’s Divinity School and Law School.

In this episode, Dr. Strawn tackles questions such as, “Does God care about justice?” and explains some parts of the Mosaic law which reflect God’s care for the vulnerable.  When God was king of Israel, the nation operated as a theocracy, and today we still have a responsibility as the Church to act as citizens of heaven. When Jesus enters history, he perfectly displays a life of loyalty to God while living under the earthly government, the Roman empire.  He respects authorities while living totally different than the surrounding culture. He seeks justice for the lowest in society out of a humble overflow of internal righteousness, and we can seek to follow this example.

Modern-day “social justice” seems to be a movement separate from the Church.  What should our involvement look like? Are Christianity and justice separable?  Find out more in Episode 2 of The Dual Citizen Podcast.

Christians are Dual Citizens

Religion and spirituality intersecting with politics? Does that sound like a nightmare to you? You are not alone. If you turn on the news, it won’t take long to feel defeated by lies, darkness, and strife. As students leave their homes and their universities they will have civic responsibilities to fulfill as adult citizens. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe that my faith affects every other sphere of life. I can personally say from experience that a relationship with the King of Kings cannot be confined to a box! The question now is how.  

From what I have observed, it is easy to fall into one of three extremes: First, there are those who believe Jesus is the true King who will return soon, so things are only going to get worse around here and we shouldn’t bother trying to fix it. Second, there are those that have faith and politics in separate boxes that do not interact. Finally, those who place their religious views on politics so much that the two become inseparable and politics becomes the basis of religion.

We must find some kind of balance, but like many other parts of the true Christian faith, finding a balance between the earthly and eternal depends more on one’s heart than his or her actions or voting patterns. Therefore, finding answers to these questions of faith and politics begins with God himself. Only through understanding his character will we be able to represent him in every area of life on earth. 

In 1 Peter 2:9, Peter writes to the Church,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

This verse of scripture has inspired the idea of The Dual Citizen. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are part of a different brand of people, a different brand of Americans, because we have been called out of the darkness and adopted into the family and kingdom of God. Set featured image

The world around us is hurting and stuck in the darkness that is the result of our sin condition.  The political world is complicated and scary– how are we supposed to know who to believe, how to vote, what to read, where to begin? The Dual Citizen podcast exists to give small, practical steps to becoming a young adult who can confidently sustain an educated conversation about something controversial or something that is happening in Washington. 

Follow along, and we’ll have some helpful conversations that can empower you to be an American citizen who can actually fulfill your adult responsibilities of knowing what’s going on in the world. In the coming months, we will hear from incredible people who live inspiring lives of community-changing conversation and action. 

What Makes an Opinion?

What makes an opinion?  The mission of the Dual Citizen is to equip young American Christians to engage in community-changing conversation and action.  A Christian worldview often leads to questions and opposition, and in order to have these conversations, we must be prepared.  This episode was crafted to encourage listeners to do research for themselves and figure out what they believe beyond the surface, theologically and politically.  I interviewed a panel of three students, Cole Shiflet, Trina Leary, and Haley Plemons, all of whom have set examples in strong faith, bold convictions, and thorough research.  

In this conversation, we reflect on the message of Image Bearers by Herbie Newell, which conveys a “whole-life pro-life” ethic, meaning the issue of abortion is not a political line item, but a posture towards all people as bearers of God’s own image, made in his likeness (Genesis 1:26).  These students offer perspectives from three different areas of study: Social Work, Pre-Ministry, and Neuroscience/Pre-Med, which allows us to examine various pro-choice arguments, discuss how to have a conversation with a person of a different faith or none, and share ways to build one’s own foundation on the issue of abortion or any topic.  When we as believers explore all sides of an issue, wrestle with hard questions, and consider how to share our views with love and empathy, we are equipped to confidently engage in a conversation that could lead to sharing the Gospel.  

Tune in to Episode 4 on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts to hear the whole conversation.